Why is the future tense modal will used when mentioned broken machines like cars, computers, phones.

For example :

Something is wrong with my computer. It won't work.

My PC won't boot: Expert tips for fixing a PC that won't start up ( from a computer magazine)

Well actually using modal will makes a sense too to some extent but it would be better if present simple continuous tense or simple present tense is used because we already know that the machine is broken, yes it will not work or it is not going to work but simple continuous tense also is used at around the time of speaking as well as referring to future.So the machine is not working now and it is not working when I push the its start button.

So I would like to ask..

1.Is using "will" in similar scenarios accepted by everyone in the UK and the US.

2.Does it sound unnatural when I say :

My car/computer is broken and it is not working/ it doesn't work.

Can I use this tenses also?

  • Forms like "It won't turn on." are OK, because in that state, if you try to turn it on after the statement (in the future), it still won't turn on. – user3169 Apr 17 '16 at 16:41
  • From the title, I thought this was a question on super user. =) – James Apr 17 '16 at 21:35
  • Related: 'Wouldn't wake up' vs. 'didn't wake up'. – ruakh Apr 17 '16 at 23:57

There is nothing wrong with saying things like "My car doesn't work."

"Will" is a modal, and just like all other modals it has a lot of meanings.

From http://dictionary.cambridge.org/

will modal verb (ABLE/WILLING) A1 (also 'll)

used to ​talk about what someone or something is ​able or willing to do:

The ​car won't ​start.

As you can see, one of the meanings of "will" is to express ability, which is what it is doing in the sentence:

The computer won't work.

It's basically saying "The computer is not able to work."


I think there is a slight difference in meaning between "isn't working" and "won't work". "The computer isn't working" implies that the speaker knows it has not been working for some time in the past, and knows it has not yet been fixed. "The computer won't work" implies that it was working in the past and the speaker expected it to work now, but it doesn't work now for some unknown reason.

You can use this with tenses:

"My computer wasn't working last week" or "My computer wouldn't work last week."

"My computer didn't work last week".

"I'm going to upgrade my computer next week, so it won't be working then."


Saying "It won't work" is like making a strong prediction that if you press the power switch, it is not going to turn on as it should. It is basically synonymous with "It doesn't work".

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